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Too Close To The Sun: The Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton Paperback – 1 Mar 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (1 Mar. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099450275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099450276
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 113,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"A good story... a fitting memorial" (Observer)

"A fascinating story of a man trying to outrun the social upheavals of the twentieth century" (Herald)

"Wheeler has made excellent use of the sources at hand... Moreover, Wheeler writes well, and has a gift - shared by only very few - for pinning down the smells and atmosphere of the African landscape" (Literary Review)

"She dazzles the reader with an evocation of time and place.. her description of the east Africa Campaign is detailed and enthralling" (Keith Dovkants Scotsman)

"She writes beautifully, with a vivid turn of phrase, a sound grasp of history and an impish humour" (Andrew Lycett Sunday Times)

Book Description

A brilliant new biography by the acclaimed author of Cherry and Terra Incognita.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Following the very successful film Out of Africa there have been several biographies of the principal real-life characters, Karen Blixen and Denys Finch Hatton and their times - roughly the first three decades of the 20th C. Sara Wheeler has undertaken an enormous amount of diligent research to bring us Too Close to the Sun, the most comprehensive biography I have seen of the latter, an English aristocrat to whom Karen Blixen gave herself, body and soul, in what seems to have been a largely unrequited relationship. Karen was undoubtedly a snob and even her concern for the Africans on her lands, the only redeeming feature tempering that defect, could be seen as treating Africans more as children or pets than fellow human beings. However, she was honest and straightforward and the genius that some thought worthy of a Nobel Prize for Literature was not far from the surface during her relationship with Finch Hatton. What Karen Blixen realised too late was that Finch Hatton had little concern for anybody but himself. Sara Wheeler's beautifully written dispassionate biography makes his inherent selfishness all too clear and for this reader gave her account of his life a mesmeric fascination. Finch Hatton was a man of his class and his time; a member of the English aristocracy (far removed from Robert Redford's anti-Brit American adventurer) and committed to King and Country and Class above all else. His upbringing as the younger son unlikely to succeed to the family title may well have formed his character. There is much in his life we can admire, a certain grittiness about getting on with what has to be done, courage in war and in the wilderness and the usual manly virtues.Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book would seem to be a carefully researched perspective on one of Kenya's early pioneers; another side of a multifaceted relationship that was bought to the public by Isak Dinesen, a pen name used by the Danish author Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke, in her now famous Out of Africa, a memoir of her life in Kenya.

Perhaps a more accurate and dispassionate portrayal of the man she undoubtably loved, and her life in the turbulent difficult and exciting times of Kenya's early pioneers, it rIngs true to a third generation ex bush pilot who was familiar with the areas, clubs, family's and skies of that wild and beautiful country.

My grandparents and parents moved and mingled with many of the characters mentioned. I live a few miles from that house at the coast, flew the routes taken by the principle chapters who were living history, and lived as a boy not far from that coffe farm that consumed so much of her life.

I found it moving, fascinating and wholly believable. It is a beautifully written most enjoyable account of the life and times of my grandparents generation. I can highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
Denys Finch Hatton was a charmer, one of East Africa's greatest big-game hunters, a traveller and an adventurer but he was perceived by some to possess many different personalities. Others would have described him as being a bounder and a cad, one who was much loved by women but found it difficult to return their love; and often, he really didn't try. Finch Hatton was brave - when a crocodile seized him by his leg, he extricated himself from this undeniably tricky situation by poking his finger in its eye. He was awarded a Military Cross during the First World War but perhaps his most daring escapade was becoming involved with Karen Blixen, whose errant husband had thoughtfully infected her with a dose of Cupid's Measles. It appears that Finch Hatton was not himself infected with syphilis and given the number of women he bedded during his association with the neurotic Baroness Blixen, it was just as well.

But all this begs the question - would Finch Hatton have become as well-known as he has, had it not been for the combined efforts of Karen Blixen, the more hirsute Robert Redford - and of course, the author of this compelling book, Sara Wheeler? Probably not.

So it says a great deal for Ms. Wheeler's literary skills that she's produced a first-class book, one tremendously well-written, full of sly humour and painstakingly researched; she says it took her three years and that, I can well imagine. Sara Wheeler has convincingly brought all of the characters to life. Karen Blixen is portrayed as a loyal friend, talented, obstinate and histrionic who was used as a convenient bed-fellow for Finch Hatton, between safaris; Beryl Markham as scheming, self-serving, promiscuous and, I think, quite unpleasant.
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Format: Paperback
This is a cleverly written book about someone who did little and achieved less but was by all accounts a great charmer. His main claim to fame, posthumously, was through Karen Blixen's memoir Out of Africa. With so little information on Denys Finch Hatton's (DFH) life and indeed little to write about - the main themes are endless trips back and forth from England to Kenya and failed business ventures - the author wisely gives the book the sub title, The life and Times of DFH. This enables her to pad the book out with describtions of events in England and Kenya during DFH's lifetime. This is the saving of the book as the author is both witty and has an eye for the absurd. However, at times she falls into the trap of adopting the same writing style as her subjects with many archaic phrases and describtions. The biggest drawback of the book, however, is the subject himself. DFH's life appears little different from the hundreds of wealthy englishmen who went out to Kenya in the early part of the last century, even his romance with Blixen has the air of a relationship of convenience - certainly not the great romance that Blixen made it out to be. The book therefore comes accross more as a gentle stroll through Kenya/English society in the 20s and 30s rather than a biography of someone who probably doesn't merit one.
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